Dealers have welcomed the news that SsangYong GB’s owner is in the running to take over the distribution of Mitsubishi in the UK.
The battered network has been reeling from the news Mitsubishi would be stopping new model development for Europe.
Many dealers have been considering their futures since the announcement and a ‘need to put food on the table’ was driving discussions with new franchise partners already.
Dealers spoke out following our exclusive story that Bassadone Automotive Group – the parent company of SsangYong GB – was in talks with Mitsubishi Corporation about taking over the distribution rights for the UK.
One said: ‘We need to make decisions about our future now. We can’t go on with Mitsubishi if there are no new models coming in and we have big showrooms and staff.
‘Many dealers in the network have accelerated their conversations with other manufacturers as a result of the news Mitsubishi was withdrawing – if they want to have anything left of a dealer network in the UK they need to act now.
‘A deal with SsangYong would mean we have new models to sell and an aftersales business for the Mitsubishi customers.
‘It’s welcome news and may just stop dealers leaving the network if they can see there is a future.’
It is thought that the SsangYong franchise offer would mean dealers would also be able to add other manufacturer partners into their showrooms too.
Isuzu and MG are rapidly expanding their networks and are said to be keen to get into bed with Mitsubishi dealers.
A figure close to the deal told Car Dealer that it’s likely heads of terms could be drawn up in the next few weeks with a deal done as soon as the spring.
Negotiations have intensified in recent weeks and both parties are said to be ‘close on the numbers’.
The deal is not thought to include the Colt Car Company headquarters at Cirencester. However, it is likely to save a number of jobs that are currently at risk.
Colt Car Company has so far refused to comment on the news.
One dealer added: ‘I know a lot of people at head office have been put on notice of redundancy. A deal with SsangYong would probably save some of those jobs.’
Another added: ‘I think this is a masterstroke of Nick Laird and Jim Tyrell – they both have excellent pedigree and I am sure Jim would love to swoop back in at Mitsubishi.
‘It was a brand he loved and I am sure that it will have a future with him involved, even if Mitsubishi say they are stopping producing cars for Europe, if anyone can make them change their mind or make it work, it’s Jim.’
The Mitsubishi and SsangYong dealers we spoke to were not keen to be named as negotiations with both brands are on-going.
Sources said dealers were told the talks between to the two parties were live at a dealer meeting recently.
A Mitsubishi dealer added: ‘It was a short meeting, with little detail. We’ve got good relationships with the brand and many in the network go back with them a long way.
‘It’s an awkward situation but we need to think about the future.
‘At the end of the day we need to be able to put food on the table. I know this deal would be welcomed by the majority in the network.’